Monday, July 27, 2009

City bees are all the buzz

City bees are all the buzz

Beekeeping gains in the concrete jungle, despite some concerns.


by Bridget Huber

Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

July 15, 2009


NEW YORK--Honeybees may not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of Brooklyn. Yet here’s Yeshwant Chitalkar, high on a rooftop in the Red Hook section of the New York borough, opening a bright blue hive to check on its queen. The vista is a mix of parks, light industrial areas, and housing projects. Dr. Chitalkar works methodically, barehanded, carefully lifting out the hive’s frames, which are covered in a velvety, undulating layer of bees.


He is one of a growing number of urbanites who keep bees in cities across the country. Their motivations vary: Some are worried about the environmental impact of fewer bees to pollinate food crops. And some are urban gardeners who want to make their gardens more productive. Others say beekeeping is a way to connect with nature even in the heart of the concrete jungle.


Oh, and there’s the honey, too. Counterintuitive as it might seem, urban hives are generally as productive and healthy as rural ones. In a good year, one hive can produce up to 200 pounds of honey.


Urban beekeeping isn’t all sweet, though. It can be hard, dirty work and the challenges are many: jittery neighbors; vandals; city ordinances banning the activity; and problems, such as mites and parasites, that vex beekeepers everywhere.


But that doesn’t daunt those who want to keep bees. This year there are at least 30 new hives in community gardens, on rooftops, and in backyards across New York. Most are the result of a series of beekeeping classes taught last winter by Jim Fischer, a veteran beekeeper who lives in Manhattan.


Mr. Fischer and some of his students formed the Gotham City Honey Co-op to buy beekeeping equipment in bulk, and hope eventually to set up a site where members can extract and bottle their honey. The co-op also plans to brand its honey and sell it to specialty stores.


The only hitch: Beekeeping is illegal in New York City...

...Since bee populations have declined, people understand them less, says Fischer, who as a child spent the summers playing baseball barefoot. Back then, grass-seed mixes included red clover, a bee favorite. Inevitably, children stepped on bees. There were tears, but parents took it in stride -- "the response was a hug and a cookie," he says.


Today, many people mistake one bodily response to a bee sting -- some swelling and itching -- for an allergic reaction and take their children to the emergency room, Fischer says...

The entire article is at

[Photograph: Mary Knox Merrill, Staff, The Christian Science Monitor]


Friday, June 19, 2009



Rain and rain and rain and rain and rain.

That's what our weather has been since late April. The temperatures have been running close to 10 degrees below normal. Bad for local farmers. Bad for local beekeepers.

Mike calls this weather "British summertime." If anyone in New England is considering taking vacation to either Britain or Ireland, take a look outside your window. That's how to prepare yourself for the weather there.

But all this rain isn't good for the bees. They cannot come out of the hives to collect pollen and nectar when it's raining. And now I'm wondering whether that's all been washed away: they're already robbing the hummingbird feeders. They're really harassing the birds. This robbing doesn't usually take place until late summer or early autumn, when their food sources begin disappearing with the end of the growing season.

We need some relief from this weather, from what my friend Deborah yesterday called "suicide weather." The bees need a break from it, too. We need nectar and pollen for the bees to gather. Otherwise, they'll probably begin eating whatever honey is already in the hive. We're considering feeding them. If they eat the honey there will be no honey for us at the end of the summer. More honey for the bees consumer while they try to survive the winter. 

I don't want to lose all my hives again this year to another bad winter.

Time to begin praying for sunshine.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Retired dentist uses bee venom as therapy"

[I have studied apitherapy with Dr. Ed and he is a wonderful teacher, and a very good man. I am pleased to see his work receiving this recognition: his is an amazing story.--Pleasant Lane Apiary]



by Tatiana Pina

Journal Staff Writer

Saturday, May 30, 2009

PROVIDENCE - On the second floor of his Tabor Avenue home, Dr. Edward Ziegler Jr. sits at his kitchen table concentrating on a glass jar that seems to be humming.

Lawrence Knowles, 70, a Providence man with a shock of thick white hair, sits next to him with his left arm outstretched, awaiting relief from osteoarthritis, which pains his hands and makes them stiff.

The 91-year-old retired dentist opens the jar slightly and grabs a woman's metal hair clip off the table. With all deftness of a man half his age he dips the hair clip into jar and plucks out a honey bee.

He presses the bee's rump to Knowles' wrist until it digs its stinger into him.

It hurts but Knowles says the venom from the bee helps alleviate his arthritis. Knowles, an adjunct faculty member at Bryant University, says it takes about three treatments before he starts to feel better. He's been coming to Ziegler for six years. "He wants to beat me at squash," Ziegler teases.

"The bee sting doesn't cure a thing," he declares. "It enhances the activity of the immune system."

Ziegler has been practicing bee venom therapy for 30 years. He keeps adrenaline in the refrigerator in case someone has an allergic reaction. He invites people suffering from arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other ailments to his kitchen for treatment Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12 to 1 p.m. It's free, although he doesn't mind the kisses from grateful women who have been helped by the treatment.

The Arthritis Foundation puts out a guide on alternative treatments for arthritis that lists bee venom therapy, saying it's used as an anti-inflammatory for conditions such tendonitis, bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The guide says a study of mice with induced arthritis showed that after eight weeks of bee venom injections the incidence of arthritis was significantly lower than in the control group. The guide also says bee stings can hurt and may not work. It suggests that if the patient sees no improvement after eight sessions and a total of 20 to 70 bee stings or injections, it's probably not going to work.

Ziegler says he scoffed when a colleague suggested bee venom therapy over 30 years ago. But he decided to try it when his feet hurt so much from rheumatoid arthritis that he could barely walk. He wasn't about to miss out on the things he loved to do like riding a motorcycle, deer hunting or flying a plane. He stings himself 21 times every other day. He keeps five hives in his back yard.

Ziegler estimates that in his lifetime his bees have stung 7,000 people. "I would be a cripple if it weren't for the bees. I had no choice but to help other people."

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A growing interest in beekeeping in Rhode Island

Peg Pelletier, right, looks at some honeybee eggs along with Dave Sieczkowski, left, as beekeeper Louis Chasse, center, talks about the queen bee and the drones.

The Providence Journal
Photo: Kathy Borchers

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Video: "The 'boys' don't sting."

Beekeeping classes in Saunderstown
May 29th, 2009

Louis Chasse, vice president of the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association, offers a free class on the second Saturday of every month through the summer. Graduates of beekeeping classes visit his property in Saunderstown to check out what his hives have been doing over the winter and to get a look at the nine new hives. There is an increased interest in beekeeping and honey bees in Rhode Island. 

Providence Journal video by Kathy Borchers
Article and video online at:

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

"...unbelievable loss of wildlife."

This month the world has witnessed the terrible fires that have been exploding across the Australian landscape. It is frightening to imagine having only moments to escape one's home or perish in an inferno. But that is what has happened there. Tragically, at least 108 people have lost their lives. (I would urge readers who wish to help the citizens affected by the fires to contact the American or International Red Cross.)

Then the numbers of animals dead began to reach the news. Livestock, pets, wildlife. The estimate last week was that well over one million animals were probably killed. Thousands are reported injured. Wildlife sanctuaries destroyed. And wildlife that have survived are likely to starve or freeze to death in Australia's upcoming winter months now that the landscape is nothing but ash.

On Tuesday, February 10
The Washington Post ran the photo above and an article about the devastating wildfires in Australia:

"Local CFA firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured Australian Koala at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the region on Monday, Feb. 9, 2009. Suspicions that the worst wildfires ever to strike Australia were deliberately set led police to declare crime scenes Monday in towns incinerated by blazes, while investigators moving into the charred landscape discovered more bodies. The death toll stood at 181.(AP Photo/Mark Pardew)"

This week some of the Australian astrologers I know issued an appeal on Facebook for contributions to the Wildlife Victoria fund. In an email, thanking me for my contribution Brian Clark of The Chiron Center in Victoria wrote:

Today I spoke to one of the vet nurses in the field who was thrilled and overwhelmed as we all are by the support and kindness of everyone. She said when she is able to that she will send on some pictures of kangaroos, koalas, possums and wombats that have been rescued and attended to in what is an unbelievable loss of wildlife....

...While it all remains shocking it is the great response of generosity and support that soothes many of the sores...

If you wish to send even just some small donation on behalf of Australia's wild life you may either contact Steve Clarke at or you can go directly to the fund's webpage by using this link:
Wildlife Victoria If you need help converting what your contribution is in your own currency, you can do so using this page: Currency Exchange Calculator 

I send many prayers and blessings to all God's creatures in Australia affected by this month's infernos.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Ag pesticides not uncommon in trapped pollen"

From Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping

"Researchers in Connecticut, during the 2007 growing season monitored pesticides found in pollen collected in pollen traps. Colonies studied were under normal conditions and were not collapsing or in any other way ill. No colonies died during the experiment.

"The researchers collected the pollen twice a week from four locations in Connecticut during the season. Samples were analyzed using HPLC/MS.

"Results: 102 samples were collected and analyzed. 37 pesticides were detected. 15 insecticide/acaracides, 11 fungicides, 10 herbicides and 1 plant growth regulator. All samples had at least one pesticide detected. The most commonly detected pesticide was coumaphos. Carbaryl and phosmet, both highly toxic to bees were the most commonly detected field pesticides. Imidacloprid was detected 30 times, mostly at low levels. The pesticides found at the highest levels were both fungicides: myclobutanil and boscalid."

Most of us don't realize that coumaphos and imidacloprid, possibly implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), are in use around us nearly every day.

Ever use a flea and tick treatment on your dog or cat? You're probably exposing them, yourself, and the environment to imidacloprid. Using chemicals to kill grubs, those pesky larvae left behind by Japanese beetles, that chew up your lawn? Imidacloprid again. Coumaphos is used by cities and towns to kill mosquito larvae in standing water, even though it's proven highly toxic to birds which eat...mosquitoes and their larvae.

Hate those dandelions on the lawn--even though they're the first food available each Spring for honey bees, bumble bees, and other pollinators? If you're broadcasting a treatment or treated grass seed, or spraying any sort of herbicide on them, you may be contributing to this increase of chemicals in pollen. Pollen gathered by honey bees is used to feed the larvae in their hives and contains the essential food elements for their growth and development.

If there's an alternative to the chemical treatments you use--essential oils, Milky spore, soapy water and a few drops of alcohol in a spray bottle--they might be a little more labor-intensive, but surely they are safer for us all.

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